Five Favorite Movies of 2009 … and My Top 25 picks of the Decade

I realize I might be rather late in posting this kind of list, but I figure since it’s technically still the first month of the year, I think I can get away with it. No? Oh well, I don’t live by your rules! :)

I can’t judge whether 2009 is a good or bad year for movies, as I haven’t really been paying so close attention to previous years prior to this blog. However, I think it’s safe to say that though it’s not exactly the ‘most stellar’ year in movie history, quite a few movies released last year made 2009 a pretty memorable one.

Anyhoo, I titled this post ‘favorite’ because this kind of list is personal in nature, so I didn’t want to say ‘best of’ because these might not necessarily be the most excellent quality or ‘perfect’ cinematic pieces, but for one reason or another, they either made a big impression on me or were hugely entertaining despite their flaws.

So with that in mind, I give you my Top Five Favorites of 2009:

  1. Avatar
    The movie that dethroned Cameron’s previously unbeatable Titanic is still going strong in its seventh straight week. I’m in the camp that totally dig this movie, though when I first saw it at Avatar day, I wasn’t sure how successful it was going to be given the somewhat poor reactions to its first trailer. But Avatar lives up to the hype in a big way. Its visuals is so mind-blowing spectacular it gave me such an immersive cinematic ride like no other, and it’s one of those rare movies that’s still rewarding in its second viewing, which is really no small feat. As for the story? Well, it’s not as ‘original’ as one expect, but it’s quite an engaging one. As to those criticism that call the storyline ‘loathsome,’ MadHatter says it best: hogwash! I guess it’s easy to criticize other people’s work, but seriously, those naysayers should ask themselves, given the opportunity, would they actually be able to top this one?
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  2. District 9
    Looking back, I’m still quite surprised how much I enjoyed this movie and the impression it left me days after. Truthfully, I wasn’t anticipating to see this movie, I only saw one trailer and didn’t know much about it, but the highly-favorable reviews intrigued me and so I went. Suffice to say, I was impressed by the innovative way this story was told, and especially by newcomer Sharlto Copley’s bravura performance. Despite being quite squeamish, I wasn’t too disturbed by the gritty and stomach-churning scenes as they served the story and the payoff was worthwhile. This was by far one of the most memorable movies I’ve seen in a while and the ending left me wanting more. As I said in my review, it’s such a distinctly moving, poignant and provocative film that makes you ponder long after the end credits roll.
  3. (500) Days of Summer
    This movie was embraced by critics and average moviegoers alike and it’s easy to see why. I’ve long believed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fantastic young actor, but his performance here again reached a pinnacle in his already impressive body of work. The credit doesn’t belong entirely to Gordon-Levitt though, as first-time director Marc Webb is also to be praised for making an anti rom-com with such an innovative and refreshing story-telling style. The clever and witty script, combined with memorably quirky and vividly surreal scenes, makes the love story of a regular guy so deeply affecting and real. Though I said in my review that I wasn’t as excited about Zooey Deschanel, I still have to commend her for portraying Summer with a certain depth and novelty that’s as far away from a caricature desirable ‘it’ girl that’s ubiquitous in Hollywood.
  4. Watchmen
    I’m a sucker for superhero movies and am a fan of Zack Snyder’s style ever since 300, but Watchmen is not your typical superhero ‘good guys’ with savior-complex. Sure they wear costumes, but these ‘heroes’ are as flawed as they are vulnerable (well except for Dr. Manhattan with his god-like powers), and definitely not the kind of characters kids should aspire to. Despite being too violent and raunchy for my taste — not to mention bizarre (or even retarded as one of my friends call it) — this movie is memorable for its spectacular visuals, as well as terrific performances from the cast, most notably Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Comedian, Patrick Wilson as Night Owl Jr. and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Snyder jam-packed it with breathtaking and edgy scenes, creative camera angles, and one of the coolest opening sequences ever. Beneath the wildly exhilarating madness though, the story is thought-provoking and surprisingly deep. As this article says, “Who watches the watchmen?  In this sense, this is less a theoretical pondering and more a deeply profound political philosophical question… [it] is not about the super heroes at all.  It is about us.  Can our self governance actually work?  Has it worked?  Does it work?” It perhaps raises more questions than it answers, especially for someone like me who isn’t familiar with Alan Moore’s graphic novel it’s based on, but it’s still a bold and inspired piece of work that makes for an extraordinary and riveting movie-going experience.
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  5. Up in the Air
    A gem of a movie, director Jason Reitman takes a subject so pertinent in today’s society and creates a story that’s deeply engaging and wonderful to watch. The movie’s ‘CGI’ comes in the form of kudos-worthy performances of his three main actors: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. I feel even more compelled to say that the two female characters are as instrumental in the movie’s success as Clooney’s was. The incredibly smart script spits out witty dialog that offers a perfect blend between tragic and humor, whilst the quieter moments still speak volumes. The opening scenes where we see Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham’s travel routine (packing, going through security, etc.) are fascinating and takes the audience in who this man is and what matters to him. I overheard someone explaining the plot of this movie recently where he said ‘it’s a movie about someone who goes on firing people‘ and I winced at such oversimplification. This movie is definitely much more than that, and much deeper than even its marketing campaign makes it out to be (as a romantic comedy of sorts). I like movies that make me ponder about them long after it’s over. Up in the Air unquestionably delivers in that regard, and then some.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Young Victoria
  • Law Abiding Citizen
  • The Blindside

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And looking back, here are Twenty-Five Favorites of the Decade (2000 – 20009, in order of release):

  1. Chicken Run (2000)
  2. Moulin Rouge (2001)
  3. Finding Nemo (2003)
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  5. Phantom of the Opera (2004)
  6. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  7. Unbreakable (2004)
  8. Batman Begins (2005)
  9. Casino Royale (2006)
  10. Dear Frankie (2005)
  11. Gladiator (2005)
  12. Children of Men (2006)
  13. The Painted Veil (2006)
  14. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  15. Stranger than Fiction (2006)
  16. 300 (2007)
  17. Atonement (2007)
  18. Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  19. The Visitor (2007)
  20. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  21. Bella (2008)
  22. The Dark Knight (2008)
  23. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  24. District 9 (2009)
  25. Avatar (2009)
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The End of a Studio – My Ten Favorite Miramax Films

Today Hollywood mourns the death of a movie studio. The Walt Disney Co. shut it down today, leaving its 80 employees jobless and remaining projects in development limbo. I’m no film historian, but I’m guessing this doesn’t happen very often, especially to a film company as prominent as Miramax, which some call a cultural force of the 90s. I don’t claim to know much about the company, only the fact that it was started by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein in New York (hence the NY skyline logo animation), and that they named it after their parents Max and Miriam.

Well-known for being brash and bullying even by Hollywood standards, Miramax is also known for distributing independent movies considered financially risky by major studios. Unlike other major studio honchos, the Weinsteins seem to genuinely love movies as much as the business side of it, as this article alluded: “They discovered new directors. They carefully built actors’ careers. They imported and promoted foreign films.” Per Wikipedia, Disney bought the company for $70 million in 1993, but granted creative freedom to the Weinsteins who still operated the business. But they relinquished their power in 2005 after years of butting heads with then Disney CEO Michael Eisner over creative & financial differences, and the brothers in turn formed The Weinstein Company. It’s been reported that they want to buy back the Miramax name back from Disney, and naturally the name is very personal to them.

Bob and Harvey Weinstein

Many of their films were commercially successful (7 of them gross more than $100 million), and perhaps one of the most successful one was Chicago, which earned $300 million worldwide. Their films were also Oscar favorites, as The Wrap article says, “Over the past 25 years, no studio has dominated the Oscars the way Miramax did, in ways both good and bad.” Nobody campaigned for Oscar noms like the Weinsteins did, treating the Academy Awards as golden marketing opportunity that’d boost the commercial value of their smaller, quirkier fares against major studios domination. You can take a peek at The Independent article that list their record Oscar nominations and winnings, or saunter over to their official site (before it’s taken down) that boast a plethora of Oscar-winning films, such as The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love and Chicago. Many, many actors partly owe them their Oscars, as the likes of Michael Caine, Daniel Day-Lewis, Quentin Tarantino, Anthony Minghella, Gwyneth Paltrow, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Billy Bob Thornton, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck — all got their golden statues for starring in a Miramax movie. No doubt this news will continue to be the water-cooler topic as Oscar nominations are to be revealed February 2nd and during the big event itself in March.

Now, the demise of the studio also means several movies awaiting distribution face uncertain future. Cinematical pondered what will happen to those, two of which I’ve blogged about before, coincidentally starring Avatar star Sam Worthington: One is Last Night, a romantic drama with Keira Knightley and Eva Mendes; and the other called The Debt, an Israeli-themed thriller with Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson. Oh, I hope these don’t end up being straight-to-dvd flicks, especially the later, it sounds like one worth-seeing on the big screen.

Well, looking back at hundreds of movies under their belt in the last 30+ years, here are ten of my favorites (in order of release):

  1. Working Girls (1986)
  2. The English Patient (1996)
  3. Mrs. Brown (1997)
  4. Mansfield Park (1999)
  5. Chocolat (2001)
  6. Finding Neverland (2004)
  7. Dear Frankie (2005)
  8. Cinderella Man (2005)
  9. Hollywoodland (2006)
  10. Gone Baby Gone (2007)

edit: Thanks to Samantha who pointed it out to me, I’m adding Dear Frankie to my top ten, as well as a few honorable mentions:

  • Emma (1996) – mainly for Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley!
  • Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • The Queen (2006)
  • The Cider House Rules (1999)
  • The Aviator (2004)
  • Extract (2009)

What about you, readers? What are some of your favorite Miramax films?

Chat-Worthy Actor: Clive Owen


This past Monday, IMDb homepage featured Clive on its actor spotlight section. As he ranks pretty high up there in my favorite actors list, I thought I’d put him on the spotlight here, too. The dashing Brit is one of those actors who despite a few lousy flicks (i.e. the preposterous Shoot ‘Em Up and the dull Duplicity), still comes out practically unscathed. IMDb’s description of him is quite fitting: Whether performing Shakespeare, driving a speeding BMW, or holding his own against mega-stars, Clive Owen has established himself as one of the most versatile actors in theater, television, and film.

Looking at his filmography, he’s got some great movies under his belt. Children of Men is destined to be a classic sci-fi drama, which remains my favorite role from the tall Brit. I also enjoyed his performance in Inside Man, King Arthur, Beyond Borders, Gosford Park, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The International. I even enjoyed his brief appearance in the first Bourne film, Bourne Identity. Though his attempt at comedy in Greenfingers didn’t fare as well as his action/dramatic ones. His latest movie The Boys Are Back shows his tender side as a single parent raising two young boys (check out my review). He also played a dad alongside Catherine Keener in the David Schwimmer-directed indie Trust.

The first time I saw Clive might’ve been in those BMW short films The Hire, which I thought is a pretty shrewd marketing campaign that truly flaunt those coveted German automobiles. This series of eight short films (which you can watch on youtube) was released online back in 2001, featuring popular filmmakers such as John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, etc., and starring Clive as the “Driver.” Sure Jason Statham is cool in The Transporter, but Clive adds a dose of sophistication and class to his ‘cool factor.’ Despite his nonchalant demeanor, he projects a certain brand of pathos with his soulful eyes that I find incredibly attractive.

All that always brings me to this theory: Clive would make a terrific James Bond. Whenever I watched him in action flicks (and there are quite a lot of ‘em) or even the way he talks with that deep, raspy voice (always a plus!), I kept thinking how Clive would’ve fit that 007 role like a glove. He not only looks the part (tall, dark and British), he somehow epitomizes what I think the text book super spy ‘model’ is supposed to be. Ok, I know, I know, it’s really a moot point now as the actor himself don’t even want the job. He did do a parody of Bond in The Pink Panther though, which I thought is pretty amusing. On his IMDb trivia, he’s quoted as saying: “Bond was the best thing that never happened to me. I was never in the running but the more I said so, the more people thought I had it in the bag. What’s so funny about it all is my career in Britain was in really bad shape at the time, but my agents pretty much built me a new one in America by playing up all the Bond stories. All I had to do was keep on telling people I was never going to be Bond. I’d like to think I made it on talent, but it’s really just dumb luck. If I hadn’t worn that tux in Croupier, I’d still be begging for the parts Robson Green turned down on cop shows.”

Oh well, at least we have those BMW films to watch Clive looking very Bond-like and wish I could take a ride with him in those ultimate driving machines… well, then again maybe not. Just take a peek at this one called Star and you’ll know what I mean. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring his own ex-missus Madonna, I bet he’d get a kick out of this one even more now.

Now, this action-packed one called Ticker with Don Cheadle and Ray Liotta is also worth checking out, it’s easily my favorite one of the series:


Updated 10/3:

I hope to see Clive in leading roles again as he’s more versatile than Hollywood gives him credit for. Now that I’ve seen a bit more of his work, I can say that I like him in dramatic roles as much as his more action-packed roles. So here are my top five favorite Clive Owen roles so far:

  • Theo Faron – Children of Men
  • Mac – Shadow Dancer
  • Louis Salinger – The International
  • Sir Walter Raleigh – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Joe Warr – The Boys Are Back

Are you a fan of Clive? What’s your favorite Clive Owen movie(s)?

Random Thoughts: Much ado about movie accents

I’ve been wanting to ask this question for quite a while, but this recent comment from regular reader Mike B. inspires me to finally get it out there as a point of discussion.

Accents is no doubt a fascinating topic. There are countless sites out there listing their picks on who have the best or worst movie accents. Whether it’s American actors doing foreign accents or vice versa, everybody seems to have an opinion on the matter. Some names keep coming up as BEST (Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Gary Oldman – who’s known for using different accent in practically any movie he’s been in); and WORST (Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise, Kevin Costner). The king of bad accent is Sir Sean Connery, who’s voted by fans as having the worst movie accent of all time according to an Empire magazine poll. But hey, it didn’t stop the Academy to award him with Best Supporting Actor Oscar® for The Untouchables, despite his dubious Irish-American accent. Interestingly enough, his own Scottish lilt was at one point voted as UK favorite’s accent, so perhaps filmmakers should’ve just let the man use his own brogue instead?

Morgan Freeman in Invictus

Now, this post isn’t about who does a certain accent best or which ones make you cringe, as I find that subject very… well, subjective. I mean, take one of the most obvious offender of fake British accent, Kevin Costner in Robin Hood. He’s actually listed in the best category by Popeater! And Russell Crowe whom Mike and I regard as having one of the most convincing American accent was actually singled out in 15 most atrocious accent list by Total Film for his work in American Gangster. It also seems that accent might be critical to a certain role more than others. For example, Mike B thought that in The Ugly Truth, Gerard Butler’s American accent (or should I say lack thereof) was so unconvincing that his disbelief in the character ruined the movie for him. Now, I agree it was bad, but it didn’t bother me as much as the atrocious script and predictable plot did. At the same time, Butler’s Irish accent (which sounded very Scottish) in P.S. I Love You didn’t bother him much, neither did his uneven American one in Law Abiding Citizen. Which makes me wonder if our opinion on a given actor’s accent work depends on other factors, such as the script/storyline or even the character itself. Not to mention the origin of the audience’s familiarity with said accent, as South African natives no doubt have an entirely different opinion about Morgan Freeman imitating Nelson Mandela in Invictus than someone like me who don’t hear the language spoken very often.

It seems that there are three options that filmmakers can take in handling movie accents:

  1. Abandon using accents altogether, as this Guardian article suggests, as it did back in the day. “In Hollywood’s past, the voice of a film star was as much part of their persona as their looks. Had they distorted their voices, audiences would have felt as cheated as if their idols had worn masks. Therefore, stars rarely put on accents even when playing foreigners.”….

    Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg

    This one blogger actually praised Bryan Singer’s decision to forgo the German accents in his film Valkyrie, where all of the actors were told to speak in their natural accent. “We have an international cast — American actors, Dutch, German, British. To have everyone approximating German accents when, in reality, they’re supposed to be speaking German, which, I promise after the first 20 minutes, you’d be sick of it. It would ultimately sound silly. And it would distract from the drive of the plot. So, the decision was made pretty quickly.” Of course, the other side of the coin is that the mishmash of American/English/German dialects can be equally (or more) distracting, as this MSNBC review suggests. Some critics even call the decision ‘lazy’ and ultimately affects the entire movie’s credibility.
    ….

  2. Make all the actors learn to speak authentic said language and subtitle the film – The quandary with this is, people would be distracted from watching the actual film as they’re too busy reading the subtitles! With that said though, I didn’t have a problem with actors speaking in Aramaic in The Passion of the Christ, so it really depends on how the film is done. Besides, this route is certainly a far better option than having the actors’ voices dubbed by native speakers of a given language (as they did in some English/Foreign movies in Indonesia), which annoyed the heck out of me.
    ….
  3. Have the actors adopt the accents of the characters’ origin – this seems to be the most common in movies today, even at the risk of the accents being ‘butchered’ by the actor(s).

So readers, my question to you is this: How much weight do you put on it in regards to an actor’s credibility in a given role? In other words, do you think accent work make or break a movie?

A favor please … would you help complete a short survey?

Hello readers,

What do you know, this is post #201 you’re reading right now. When I shared this to guest blogger Rockerdad, he said to me, “when you started this six or so months ago, I bet you didn’t think about making it to your 200th post.” Right on, dude, I never thought I’d still be blogging to this day actually, so I thank you all for reading and supporting FlixChatter!

Ok, I don’t want to get all mushy on ya… but I do want to ask a favor. Would you kindly help a fellow blogger at screenspeak who’s an aspiring film journalist by completing this short survey? It’ll only take a few minutes and it’d help her finalize her dissertation on women directors and the Oscars.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting a discussion question for you all just to change things up. Stay tuned!

FlixChatter Review: The Young Victoria

I love British period dramas and adore Emily Blunt, so put the two together and I expect an enjoyable movie experience. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Not only is it a gorgeous movie to look at, but also believably-acted by both Emily in the title role, as well as Rupert Friend as Albert.

A bit of a background on the period where the movie is set: The year is 1837, when 17-year-old Victoria is the object of a royal power struggle. Being the heir to the throne her dying uncle, King William, Victoria is sheltered from the court by two people she despise: her domineering mother The Duchess of Kent, and her appointed regent Conroy (whose task is to administer a country because the monarch is a minor). The one person she relies on is her doting governess Lehzen, who also practically smothers her.

Ever since she was little, Victoria always felt imprisoned in her own palace, and it’s easy to see why. She can’t even come down the stairs without an adult holding her hand. So she lives a lonely life with a huge burden on her shoulder that her time to rule England is soon approaching. Miles away, her cousin Albert, the nephew of Victoria’s uncle King Leopold of Belgium has been constantly coached to win her hand. Given her upbringing, the young queen is naturally reluctant to the idea of marriage, weary of being under someone else’s control again. Albert shares that sentiment, as he too is controlled by those in power around him. Perhaps it’s that understanding that lead to an unlikely friendship between the two, and allows Victoria to be honest to Albert about her feelings and grievances. The scene when the two are playing chess together shows how Albert doesn’t seek to be the husband that ‘play the game for her, but instead to play it with her.’ It could’ve been a sly line Albert’s been versed to say all his life, but it’s delivered in such an earnest way that we the audience, along with Victoria sitting in front of him, take his words to heart. It doesn’t hurt that Friend, with his mild-mannered demeanor and convincing German accent, is so darn appealing in a wholesome kind of way.

When King William finally dies and Victoria is crowned Queen of England (in a breathtaking coronation), Victoria takes no time to banish her mother and Conroy to a remote apartment near Buckingham Palace. But it doesn’t mean she’s ‘free’ now as she immediately cuddles up to the charming but rather self-serving Lord Melbourne, England’s PM and sole advisor. For a time, the people loved their new queen, but not too long later, a conflict with Melbourne’s opponent Robert Peel painted her as being against the public’s will. That’s the time when Victoria realized how much she needed Albert’s support.

Amidst all that volatile political happenings, the heart of the film is the sweeping love story, as the poster tag line says: She was the queen of an empire, but her heart belonged to one man. She’s obviously more lucky in love than her distant cousin Queen Elizabeth I who’s known as the Virgin Queen (more recently played by Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth). The best part is, she need not have to wait for Albert to ask for her hand, as being the ruler of an empire means she gets to do the proposing!

It’s to be expected that any kind of Hollywood biopics usually take liberty with the historical facts, and this one is no different. In fact, this Telegraph UK article reported that the Queen isn’t amused by the inaccuracies depicted in the film, especially regarding the assassination attempt as the newlyweds were riding through the streets in a carriage. I can’t help wonder if the fact that this movie was co-produced by the Duchess of York (a.k.a Fergie) — along with Martin Scorsese — has something to do with the Queen’s feelings towards the movie. In any case, this extra dose of dramatization adds some vigor and suspense to an otherwise plodding pace, but also reminds us that this movie is more of a romantic drama than a historical narrative.

The script  by Julian Fellowes (who won Oscar for Gosford Park) is able to make the slow-burn romance and background story quite engaging as I wasn’t bored at all the entire time. When there’s not much action going on, I can feast my eyes in the beautiful cinematography of posh palaces, blinding jewels and sumptuous costumes. But all in all, the movie works largely due to Emily and Rupert’s enchanting performances, as the movie’s pace practically picks up when the two are together on screen. Emily at the age of 26 looks amazingly believable as a teen with her radiant face and flawless skin. She also makes the young queen relatable and someone regular folks can actually empathize with — she’s strong but vulnerable, no doubt a daunting task for any actress. Rupert as Albert shows a nice balance between being agreeable and resolute, as despite his meekness, he reasonably demands to be treated as his wife’s partner and equal.

Conroy and The Duchess of Kent

The largely British cast are also fabulous all around, most notably Jim Broadbent as King William, Miranda Richardson as Victoria’s mother, Paul Bettany as Melbourne and Mark Strong as Conroy. But having seen Strong as the sneeringly evil Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, I feel he’s in danger of being typecast in villainous role (He’s reportedly in talks to play yet another villain in The Green Lantern). It’s too bad if that’s the case, as I quite like his whimsical side in Rocknrolla.

This marks the second movie about Queen Victoria I thoroughly enjoy. The first one is Mrs. Brown, starring Judi Dench and Billy Connolly. That movie takes place after the death of her beloved Albert, causing her to disappear from the public in mourning. That is until her Scottish servant John Brown helped nursed her back to life. Dame Judi Dench delivered a superior performance that no doubt merit her Best Actress Oscar.


4 out of 5 reels


What are your thoughts about this movie?

Weekend Roundup: The Edge of Love, The Young Victoria and Avatar

Two indie flicks and a giant blockbuster, that’s the three movies I watched this weekend. It may seem absurd to you but I just finally signed up with Netflix again after 2+ yrs of terminating its membership. Vanessa wondered how I filled my time before that, and the answer is, well, the old-fashioned way. I’m probably the only movie blogger in the blogosphere who still go to the local Blockbuster to rent a flick. But now I’m gonna find out what’s the fuss about this ‘watch instantly’ feature Rockerdad kept raving about.

  • FRIDAY – The Edge of Love
    The first movie on my Netflix queue is the indie WW II period drama. I thought the movie was okay, its first hour was quite promising but overall it just felt neither cohesive nor memorable. Keira Knightley proves she not only has acting chops to go with her gorgeous face, she’s a pretty good singer, too. She played a torch singer Vera Phillips with uncommonly bright white British teeth, deep red lips and melancholy eyes, shot in almost surreal-like theatrics. Though billed as a movie about poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys), the movie is essentially about the unlikely friendship between the two women who loved him. Vera is his first love who happens to cross-path with him one fateful night, and Caitlin (Sienna Miller) is Thomas’ fiery wife. Knightley and Miller play off each other well and their bond amidst bouts of jealousy and adversity is convincing. The three of them formed a peculiar threesome (not in a sexual way, mind you), but as soon as trigger-happy soldier William Killick (the soulful Cillian Murphy) enters the picture, it’s apparent four is a crowd. The movie seemed to have a lot going for it, but the script (written by Keira’s own mother Sharman Macdonald) simply can’t decide what he wants to focus the story on, so it aimlessly shifts back and forth between the four characters. Not bad I guess for a Friday night, and at the very least least I get to enjoy the Welsh countryside scenery, Keira’s singing and the elegant 1940s costumes … oh, and Cillian’s mesmerizing blue eyes!
    sdffds….
  • SATURDAY afternoon – The Young Victoria (read my full review)
    I’ve been wanting to see this film for months, so I’m glad my friend Corinne and I finally find the time to catch this one. It’s late January and it’s pouring rain outside, few things on earth is as unpredictable as Minnesota weather. But at least it makes for a good time to go to the movies. For the first time in a long time, I actually see TWO movies at the theater in a single day, The Young Victoria at 2:00 and Avatar at 6:30. Set three centuries apart, the two movies can’t be even more different from each other, but hey, in a way the Na’vi is a monarchy, too. How about that for stretch :)
  • SATURDAY evening – Avatar IMAX 3D
    I don’t think there is any doubt by now that this movie will shatter James Cameron’s own box office record of Titanic. As of Sunday 1/24, THR reported that in its sixth week, Avatar‘s overseas box office has surpassed the shipwreck epic’s international cume by $46 million. But domestically, it’s got several hundred million to go to beat the Titanic‘s $600.8 million gross, which I don’t think they’ll have a problem with. I guess the Canadian über director has achieved his goal of bringing people back to the cinemas. We almost went to see The Book of Eli on Friday night when it was sold out, and Saturday, we got to the theater half an hour before it started and the place was packed! We had to sit all the way in the back by the handicapped section with the black railing right blocking part of my view!

    Thankfully, the movie itself is still impressive the second time around. Blogger Katie said in her Theory of Second Viewing post that she is of the belief that one cannot form a proper opinion about a movie until you’ve seen it twice. Well, I already loved this movie on first viewing but the second time confirmed my feelings about it. I was still in awe of the spectacular world of Pandora, and the plot, however simplistic, was still engaging. And the fact that I’m already familiar with the story kind of helps me pay more attention to things I missed. It’s interesting that I still marveled and laughed at the same scenes as I did before, i.e. when the phosphorous flying jellyfish landed on Jake, and the first time Jake had a wedgie in the Na’vi’s skimpy wardrobe. Sam Worthington’s endearing portrayal of Jake’s child-like naiveté really wins me over this time that I’m willing to overlook his strong Aussie accent.

    I know I sound like a broken record but even if this isn’t your kind of movie (I’m looking at you Prairiegirl :) ), Avatar simply has to be seen on the IMAX 3D theater. Even if you just see if for the special effects alone, it’s still worth your money. Btw, Yahoo! Movies released a 22-minute making-of featurette that shows what the techie mumbo-jumbo like ‘simul-cam’ and ‘motion capture’ really means. It’s cool to see that the actors still have to physically prepare for their role and the length Cameron went to create a ‘real’ environment and something tactile for them to react to. The motion-capture technology doesn’t replace the actor’s work, but I can see that makeup artists might be a bit worried if this becomes a trend in the near future. Anyway, I wish they had shown how they made Jake’s paralyzed leg so realistically skinny though, given that it’s been the subject of people’s curiosity all over the net.
    ….

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So how about you folks? Catch any good movie this past weekend?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: The Eclipse

When I first saw a glimpse of the poster and the name Eclipse, I kind of brushed it off thinking it was just another installment of Twilight. It turns out this one is as far away from the teen vampire flick as it comes, thank goodness! The only thing it has in common is the supernatural theme, which in the case of The Eclipse, it looks like more of a psychological thriller than a out-and-out horror flick.


Here’s the full synopsis:
THE ECLIPSE tells the story of Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds), a teacher raising his two kids alone since his wife died two years earlier. Lately he has been seeing and hearing strange things late at night in his house. He isn’t sure if he is simply having terrifying nightmares or if his house is haunted. Each year, the seaside town where Michael lives hosts an international literary festival, attracting writers from all over the world. Michael works as a volunteer for the festival and is assigned the attractive Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), an author of books about ghosts and the supernatural, to look after. They become friendly and he eagerly tells her of his experiences. For the first time he has met someone who can accept the reality of what has been happening to him. However, Lena’s attention is pulled elsewhere. She has come to the festival at the bidding of world-renowned novelist Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), with whom she had a brief affair the previous year. He has fallen in love with Lena and is going through a turbulent time, eager to leave his wife to be with her. But all Lena is trying to do is extricate herself from this mess and just get through the next few days. As the festival progresses, the trajectories of these three people draw them into a life-altering collision. Embellished by the supernatural, THE ECLIPSE is a film about the challenges of love, fear of the unknown and release from the burden of grief.

Irish actor Ciarán Hinds won Best Actor award at Tribeca Film Festival last year. He first caught my eye in The Phantom of the Opera, but he’s the kind of chameleon-like character actor like Mark Strong who’s actually been in many movies I’ve seen before. In fact, he’s always delivered solid performances in films like Veronica Guerin, Munich, Miami Vice, There Will Be Blood and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Not to mention his outstanding portrayal of Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome. His death scene in that miniseries really gave me the chills.

The actress looks so familiar to me I swore I’ve seen her in something recently. Sure enough, Danish actress Iben Hjejle was John Cusack’s girlfriend Laura in High Fidelity. I haven’t seen Aidan Quinn in anything since Legends of the Fall, but he’s apparently been keeping busy in a variety of movies and TV work.

The trailer looks really spooky and intriguing, the seaside Irish town location adds to the eerie and somber tone that’s perfect for the story. According to FirstShowing, Magnolia Films is bringing the movie to theaters starting March 26th.

DVD Spotlight: 10 Things I Hate About You

10ThingsPosterI saw this movie not too long ago, roughly around the time of Heath Ledger’s passing. I’ve always been curious about this movie but his phenomenal performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight compelled me to see it even more. It’s been more than a decade since 10 Things I Hate About You hit theaters, and its 10th Anniversary DVD has just been released.

Film Summary (per IMDb):

Updated version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”, set at the fictional Padua High School in Tacoma where a new transfer student, Cameron (Gordon-Levitt), is interested in the popular sophomore Bianca Stratford. But Bianca’s overprotective and domineering father forbids Bianca to date unless her older sister Katerina (Stiles), an unpopular and hostile senior, does. In a bid to get Katerina a boyfriend, Cameron sets up a plan to have the school stud, Joey Donnar, bribe Patrick Verona (Ledger), an outcast senior with a rumor-filled past, to take the volatile Katerina out on dates so he can go to the school’s homecoming dance with Bianca. However, neither Pat or Kat expect their ‘going steady’ to lead where nobody expects it to.

This marching band scene is one of my favorite parts of the movie where Patrick sings “Can’t take my eyes off of you” to Kat. I forgot how good Heath’s singing voice was, he should’ve been on my list of actors who’re surprisingly good singers.
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Watching clips of this makes me feel nostalgic about Heath. He truly was one of the best actors of his generation with so much potential. His performance here was top notch, truth be told, I don’t think this movie would’ve worked as well as it did without him. Rob Pattinson’s sullen & angst-ridden Edward in Twilight might’ve taken some cue from mysteriously intriguing Patrick Verona, alas R-Patz could barely match Ledger’s charisma, sparkly torso notwithstanding.

Surely the late young Aussie thespian was the star of the film, but Julia Stiles delivered a superb performance as well. She and Ledger played off each other well and their eventual attraction was believable and wonderful to watch. I haven’t seen her in much of anything of late besides the Bourne series, which is too bad because she’s a darn good actress. According to IMDb, one of her projects in development is The Bell Jar, which is novelist/poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel. I remember Gerry Butler mentioned Stiles a few years back during the Red Eye movie premiere when discussing the elusive Burns biopic. Apparently Butler was keen on her being involved in the movie, as one of the bard’s women Jean Armour perhaps?

Anyway, it’s tough to find a teen comedy that’s not corny or obtuse, but director Gil Junger (who does mostly TV sitcoms work) managed to make one that has a universal and remarkably timeless appeal. The script is full of wicked dialog that’s both funny and touching. If you haven’t seen it, don’t be put off by the teen comedy genre, this isn’t Clueless or American Pie (shudder), as Ledger’s charismatic bad-boy portrayal, as well as strong performances from Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, truly made this one worth seeing. Interesting that a decade later, both Ledger and Levitt would be part of the mega blockbuster that is Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

I might even rent this one again if only to see the featurette aptly named 10 Things I Love About 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU: 10 Years Later and the sneak peek of Heath Ledger’s screen test.


Have you seen this film? What did you think?

Everyone’s a Critic Part 3: Reviews from FlixChatter’s Readers

Welcome to the third edition of Everyone’s a Critic series! We’ve got a couple of new contributors today, thanks guys! Here they are in their own words:

The Hangover
by Mike Beery (now how appropriate is that??) :D

It’s uncommon that one seeks out a comedy film a second time, as most of the jokes aren’t as funny twice through. The Hangover happens to be one of those films requiring a second stint – simply because you’re laughing so hard at the constant stream of bits that you miss an awful lot the first time through.

Perhaps the reason there’s so much humor in this comedy is the cast made up of 4 central characters, three of which are hilarious. The plot is simple: best friends head to Vegas for a Bachelor’s Party Weekend that goes a rye. When the three friends wake up the next morning from a night of whooping it up they find that they’ve lost the groom. On top of that they can’t remember a thing about what happened the night before.  This turns the film into a detective story. As they get closer to locating the groom they uncover more and more of their debaucheries behavior. Watching their reactions to their own behavior is priceless.

The character interaction between Phil Wenneck played by Bradley Cooper (the good looking “Player” buddy), Stu Price played by Ed Helms (the weak Dentist controlled by his bitchy girl friend) and the brother of the bride Alan Garner played by Zack Galifianakis (a simpleton ex-pedophile-like guy still living at home) is rich. They each present a different spin on the crazy situations they’re presented with. This comic chemistry is why I had to see it again. You’ll laugh at the initial gag, then if you’re careful, you’ll catch the subtle interactions between these guys as they react to some of the funniest situations caught on film.

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Young @ Heart
by Stanley Prawiradjaja

Instead of giving review on some blockbuster (or not) movies that I watched recently (eg. Inglorious Bastards, Proposal, and Extract). I like to give my two thumbs up for an inspiring documentary that I recently watched called Young@Heart (2007). This documentary was aired free! at your local PBS (this is just to show why we should support our local PBS). This is an inspiring documentary on a group of 70′s-90′s (that’s their actual age, not calendar years) lead by a music director, Bob Cilman.

Started in 1982, the group was organized at an elderly housing project in Northampton, MA. Strive to bring happiness to the elderly through performance arts. The group would sing songs such as Coldplay’s “Fix You” or James Brown’s “I Feel Good”. I laughed and touched through their rehearsal and lost of their group members. This choir group gives them friendship, activities, and challenges as they try to sing some of the hard lyrics from rock songs. If you are looking for a good true story, look this up!

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AVATAR 3-D
by Burke Hegrenes

With three kids, I don’t see a lot of movies in the theatre. And if I do, it’s probably a “family” movie. But the more I heard about Avatar, the more I wanted to see it in the theater as opposed to waiting for the DVD release. But not because of the story. (Fantasy is not my favorite genre. I’ve only seen the first Star Wars, and I haven’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter movies.) No, the reason I wanted to see it on the big screen was because I heard it was a visual masterpiece – especially in 3D. So I paid the extra $3 for the 3D and was expecting big things … big things coming at me in a way that makes me want to duck my head or reach out and grab something floating in the theatre. But that wasn’t really the case.

Don’t get me wrong … I thought the story was great. A little formulaic at times (it sometimes felt like I was watching “A Bug’s Life;” others have compared it to Dances with Wolves). But I liked it. A lot. And the visuals were great too. But I just got the feeling that watching it on Blu Ray would be just as spectacular.

So I guess this is more of a review about 3D than it is the movie. And I say 3D isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I saw Ice Age 3D in the theatre with my kids last year, and after the movie, they all said “that wasn’t really 3D.” I agreed, and wondered if it was a bad projector in the theatre or just lame 3D effects. I’m now guessing it was the latter. My son went with me to Avatar, and after it was done he said something to the effect of “Next time we go to a movie, let’s not do 3D.”

If I go to a 3D movie, I expect the 3D gags … the kind you see at the 3D shows at Disneyworld. Yeah, they’re kinda cheesy because they make the action forced. But isn’t the purpose of a 3D movie to trick viewers into wanting to reach out and grab for something that isn’t really there? Or is it just to trick them out of another $3?